Fifty-one young people from Tobago recently graduated from training programmes made possible through a collaboration between BPTT and the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) Ltd.
Hosted at the penthouse of the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough, the ceremony featured 15 graduates from an entrepreneurship training programme as well as 36 cosmetology graduates – in barbering and hairdressing programmes.
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and Secretary for Education, Innovation and Energy delivered the feature address, said a media release. Charles told the graduates, “I want to congratulate you for taking full advantage of this opportunity and making steps towards realising your full potential. I expect that even as we celebrate your successes today, you will commit to a life of learning, personal growth and self-development."
He also praised YTEPP and BPTT for their training and support of the youth.
"I want to commend YTEPP for being a cornerstone of technical and vocational training and BPTT for their continued support of enterprising young persons. Fostering entrepreneurship has been a critical aspect for development across the world in terms of improving quality of life and economic sustainability and this graduation bodes well for the future of Tobago."
He noted that the THA has been proactive in the development of youth and has trained "almost 3,700 young people in vocational skills, and in the past two years alone we have dispersed over $3 million in grants and loans to facilitate entrepreneurial development in many sectors of our economy."
Charles continued, "I want all of the graduates here to know that your journey is just beginning and you can access these loans and grants to realise your ideas and create new opportunities.”
The training programmes are a collaborative effort between BPTT and YTEPP that started in 2018 with cosmetology training and was expanded in March 2019 to incorporate the intensive five-day entrepreneurship training programme, of which the top ten graduates across TT each received seed grants of $20,000 to help develop their business ideas, the release said.
Speaking to the graduates, Joel Primus, community sustainability and stakeholder relations advisor, BPTT told them the event represented the start of a new chapter in their lives.
“Congratulations and this moment represents both the completion of weeks, months and years of hard work while at the same time, it signifies the start of a new chapter of discovery in your lives. I would like to recognise the fact that there was a 100 per cent completion rate in these courses – everyone who started stuck with it and successfully graduated.
"I have three challenges for you now – take the knowledge you gained here and start your own business, share your knowledge and help lift (each) other up and finally, always keep looking forward to new opportunities. It makes me immensely proud to say that you have empowered yourselves to shape the future, not only for yourselves, but for Tobago and our nation as a whole.”
Sharing a very emotional valedictory address was entrepreneurship graduate and grant recipient, Amanda McEachnie. “This training was life-changing for me and it went beyond my expectations and challenged me to surpass my previous dreams. BPTT and YTEPP showed us that anything is possible and I know that my dessert and events catering business – Tru Cravings – will be a successful one. With the skills I have acquired in every aspect of business, I plan to start in Tobago but expand regionally and even internationally with the excellence that was instilled in us through this training,” McEachnie explained.
Also receiving a BPTT-grant was Fanta Pierre-Sandy for her organic skincare company – Sandy’s Bath and Organics. These two Tobagonian entrepreneurs join their eight compatriots in Trinidad who hailed from Port of Spain, Arima, San Fernando and central and received their grants in a graduation ceremony held in November 2019.
The valedictory address for the cosmetology cohort was delivered by Curdisia Springer who said, “We had excellent YTEPP tutors and the support from BPTT encouraged us to achieve our best. I would like to reflect on the fact that we all worked together to grow and learn as one team. Through hard work, collaboration and the support we received, we can now bask in the achievement of a professional qualification and the skills to create our own opportunities.”
YTEPP’s CEO Nigel Parris offered congratulations on behalf of the organisation. “Because of relationships like this one with BPTT, we can expand our reach to individuals and communities and empower them towards achieving sustainable economic development. Mark Twain once said, ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started’, and each and every one of you here today got started and now you’re getting ahead," Parris said
"You have been given more than a certificate here today – you have been given the ability to control your own destiny. For the past 30 years, YTEPP has been a platform for citizens to have dreams, explore opportunities and achieve success – today is just further validation of our vision to be a leader in building human capacity for a competitive economy.”